In 2010, a certain 26 year old Tunisian; Ahmed Bouzizi, sparked the Arab revolution, now popularly known as the Arab Spring, when he doused himself in petrol and burnt to death. Why did Bouzizi, a young university graduate, commit suicide? He was frustrated with life in Tunisia! An educated man who could not secure employment after school resorted to selling fruits in a wheelbarrow for survival. Sadly, the same State that could not give him a job confiscated his wares because hawking is prohibited in certain areas. Industrious Bouzizi tried, without success, to get back his fruits but he was disgraced out of the government building. With no other hope of survival, he committed suicide.

This action by Ahmed Bouzizi raised the consciousness of the youths in that country and a revolution began, a revolution that sacked the long reign of President Ben Ali. Realizing they suffer the same frustrations and neglect, Egyptian youths revolted against President Mubarak of Egypt and sacked his over 30 years government – and like a contagious wildfire, other countries in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region were affected and despots like Col. Murmar Gaddafi of Libya were overthrowned/killed in October 2010.

The now popular Arab Spring was a revolution started by an educated but deprived and frustrated youth, supported by thousands of youths like him – that eventually took a life of its own and attracted world attention – and had major world powers like the USA, France and Russia becoming participants in the conflicts that emerged thereafter. The impact is that the Boko Haram insurgency and the proliferation of SALWs in West Africa and Nigeria has its roots in the Libya crisis – where Gaddafi’s mercenaries are now selling stockpiles of arms and ammunitions to such non-state actors in the black market or as ‘gifts’ to support to their activities in the region.

Sadly, there are over 70 million Ahmed Bouzizi’s in Nigeria seeing that millions of Nigerian youths are poor due to the rising levels of unemployment and are becoming frustrated with each passing day. Those ‘lucky’ to be employed are underemployed because they are paid peanuts as salaries or owed months of unpaid salaries. Life in Nigeria, for most youths is in the Hobbesian state of nature: tough, rough, brutal and short! Like Bouzizi, many Nigerian youths have ventured into businesses so as to eke out a living for themselves but the business environment is harsh and the government do not seem to be bothered. In the last two years, 5 million Nigerians, mostly youths, became unemployed.

The late Nigerian music maestro Fela Kuti described Nigerians as a “suffering and smiling” bunch because the average Nigerian is very religious who keeps believing that ” tomorrow go better”. It is 2019, many years after Fela’s apt description and tomorrow nova still come so things go better! And for this, many Nigerians are beginning to realize the foolishness in the “e go better” hymn without massive action against those responsible for their plight/predicament.

If the Nigerian government (federal and states) continues to take youth unemployment for granted, an Ahmed Bouzizi inspired revolution would happen in the country – and beginning in states such as Benue, Kogi and Osun who owe workers many months of unpaid salaries and where many youths are unemployed, idle and frustrated. As long as the mass majority of youths in Nigeria remain unemployed (and underemployed), insecurity and criminality will not reduce no matter how militaristic security agencies become. The spirit of Ahmed Bouzizi may be invoked by Nigerian youths and then it may be too late to stop the conflagration that will arise.

© Chad Otsapa

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